I’m not sure if you’re in the same boat as I am, but for some of us, it’s difficult to church these days.
As I mentioned in a recent post, one of the churches that we were looking at getting involved in got swept up in the prophesying Trump would become president phenomenon. It’s unfortunate because it seemed theologically, and doctrinally we fit there much better than other places we’ve been.
It’s somewhat difficult for me to begin with because certain heresies and erroneous doctrines are prevalant in mainstream Evangelical Christianity, while I can generally see through these myself, I have four kids (now), and part of my most important responsibility is for their spiritual education. How right would it be for me to wittingly bring my kids into church cultures which will be programing them with all the prevailing error?
We were churching with semi-charismatic Calvinists for a while, and they were a great group (theological differences notwithstanding), we were going to begin tithing there (not that I believe in tithing as a law, but as a principle of financial sacrifice to the Lord) when I came to discover that they were giving money from the church fund to an organization of a seperate religion (in fact, the group refereced by Christ in Rev. 2:9). I hoped to fellowship with this group, and minister to them on the basis of their openness to the charismatic; unfortunately, their tendancy toward this had already led many of them to the Signs and Wonders movement (the NAR, the Bethel church movement, whatever you want to call it; I call it the ‘Signs and Wonders movement’ because it goes beyond the Bethel church and NAR phenomena, has large contingents also in Australia, and other parts of the world, and has also been creeping into the traditional Pentecostal denominations).
Here’s little ol’ nobody me who’s written a book and maintains a blog trying to recommend genuine fellowship with the Spirit of God and simultaneously discourage use of the Passion translation and the baloney theatrical-ist practices, and fanaticized doctrines of the Signs and Wonders movement. I think I confused them: ‘Wait… you’re for gifts of the Spirit, and believe in divine healing, but discourage involvement with the NAR?!’ In their view (it seemed) the Signs and Wonders movement was the capital on the charismatic experience.
Unfortunately, this is how it presents itself, also, and when people speak against the movement, the automatic response of the ministers of the movement is: “Well, they’re persecuting us. And they’re doing it because they don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.” This helps entrench them as those with the capital on the charismatic. However, I don’t think I am the only one who does not endorse the movement not because they operate in spiritual gifts (and many of them legitimately do – which is part of the problem), but on the basis of their errors toward the Truth of the Gospel.
Let me stop and give an example of what I mean when I say that part of the problem is that some of them legitimately do operate in spiritual gifts:
I went to a local charismatic church a few years back (actually it was before Brian Simmons’ Passion Translation was yet in vogue, he may have been working on it already, but this testimony is a bit of a taste of why TPT should be avoided at all costs). There was an itinerant minister visiting from Texas whom they called a Prophet. I believe in prophets, let’s hear this guy out.
Well, it was not long at all before I sent the wife and kids out of the sanctuary. The man started ‘teaching’ and as a method of teaching, he was explaining what certain Hebrew words ‘actually mean’ – you know, as opposed to what linguistically trained scholars translated them as. Interestingly, several of the passages he reinterpreted were passages I had recently been studying (including research of the meanings of the original language – I’m not a linguist, I require dictionary tools for that sort of thing (maybe one day I’ll be able to get an education in linguistics – hey if you’d like to provide a scholarship to an aspiring author and minister, I wouldn’t be likely to turn you down, but I digress))
Anyways this guy is acting as though he has fuller understanding of the language and is thereby reinterpreting scripture in order to advance his doctrine. To people who aren’t studying, or who think that this guy’s interpretation must be accurate because of prophetic revelation, or something (as the church presented him to the congregation as a prophet), his name may as well be Joseph Smith (you know, the prophet of Mormonism who ‘interpreted’ several documents (including two golden tablets which no one else got to see anyways). The guy who founded the Jehovah’s witnesses similarly re-translated the New Testament (from Greek) but could not identify letters of the Greek alphabet in court.
Here’s just one example from the message that day; he spoke of God’s breathing life into Adam, and declared that in Hebrew, the meaning – where translated ‘living soul,’ is ACTUALLY ‘speaking spirit.’ Bear in mind, this guy is speaking from the pulpit in church service, and he has been introduced as a prophet. He’s wrong; dead wrong. I had recently been studying the Hebrew words in this passage, and guess what the phrase in Hebrew ACTUALLY means (like, actually, actually)? It means exactly how it’s translated in KJV ‘living soul.’ In fact, I remember thinking it a bit odd that God breathed His ‘Ruwach’ (Hebrew transliteration of the word meaning both ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’) into man, and as a result man was made a living ‘Nephesh’ (Hebrew transliteration of the word meaning ‘soul’) when I studied it.
Again, that’s only one example, he did that same thing with 5 or 6 different passages, reinterpreting them wrong in every case – as I said, most of the passages I had recently studied myself, which I don’t think was a coincidence, I think it was the Spirit of God so that I could clearly see through this gentleman’s error. So after he preaches his message, he says he’s going to do some prophetic ministry; and after his heretical teaching, they were going to allow him to.
What should have happened is that the Pastor of the church, or an elder, or deacon, or anybody with authority should have stepped up and corrected the wrong teaching and cancelled the prophetic ministry portion because the guy was a heretic as evidenced by the fruit of his lips. Instead, there was no correction (although it seemed to me that the pastor – who came onstage – perhaps had been a bit uncomfortable with the teaching; but, again, he didn’t come onstage to correct anything but to segue into the prophetic ministry portion. The guy begins to do personal prophetic ministry with people in the audience (you know, with the microphone calling on specific people in the audience). Lo and behold, some of (I certainly can’t speak for all) of his personal prophetic words were accurate. Just one example, he called a young couple and said he had a vision of them in a tent; apparently the couple (by their testimony) had recently been evicted from their home and had literally been living in a tent (I hope someone actually ministered to their needs upon this revelation, rather than expecting their prophetic word to be sufficient (James 2:15 & 16)).
Now, there are a number of things wrong with this picture; the pastors of the church presented this guy as a Prophet, he taught error and went uncorrected; further he went on to operate in some spiritual gifting, only indicating further to the congregation that this guy was a legitimate minister of the Gospel. This is a microcosmic view of what the whole movement is like: someone gets baptized in the Holy Ghost, and let’s off a prophecy. People are impressed with that prophecy (whether or not it was accurate), that same person does the same a couple more times, and people begin to acclaim them a ‘Prophet,’ or an ‘Apostle.’ Are they a prophet, or an Apostle just because they have operated in some spiritual gift? No. (1 Cor. 12:29-30) (This phenomenon is now not only happening in the micro-chasm of a few individual churches, but the movement is making and endorsing the ‘Passion Translation’ which is a widespread re-interpretation of scripture that I see as very similar to what I saw happen at this church.)
Once they have the title, however, assessment of their ministry becomes unthinkable: “DON’T TOUCH THE LORD’S ANOINTED!”
Give me a break.
How about this one?
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
I had a teacher once (a legitimate prophet) who used this phrase: ‘treading out the grain.’
The problem with the Signs and Wonders movement is that there is no treading out the grain. Folk don’t stop to check if the spiritual going on is legitimate, and if you do, you’re accused of being religious and not believing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then we had this widespread false prophecy movement in the political side. I would hope that the church by and large is re-assessing, but it doesn’t seem to be doing so (by-and-large). How do we church? All of my options for going to church seem to be going off course. As I mentioned, we started going to one local church who I was more on page with save that they were a bit more politically focused than appropriate and then they (as a result of this) got swept into prophesying Trump would be president this term.
I don’t know how many others are in the same situation; it seems like many take these things as a matter of course, but we are supposed to turn away from false prophets, and false teachers (Deut. 18:22).
You know what it seems like to me? It seems like we’re in the end of days, and the great falling away is in full swing.
I encourage you, brothers and sisters, as many as are struggling with these times: don’t give up. When you see these things, lift up your eyes, your redemption draws nigh.
I trust that there is an elect in the earth – in fact I know that there is. The Revelation speaks of the 144,000 sealed unto God. These are not Jews following the rapture, as you’ve likely been taught, but the victorious remnant in the earth who stand with the Lord on mount Zion (in New Jerusalem) even as the antichrist kingdom reigns. (Actually, I may do a post on them soon. UPDATE: Here’s that post)
I don’t mean to go all Appocalyptic in this post, either, but to encourage the elect not to give up. Seek the Lord, for there in a genuine fellowship with His Spirit; fear not man. The elect of God is the church, not erring organizations, and institutions of man.
Ye are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. (Matt. 5:14)